Bomba Estéreo Brings Brown Power and Endless Optimism to FM Festival

Bomba Estéreo will headline the FM Festival.
Bomba Estéreo will headline the FM Festival.
Photo credit: Sony Music
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The term "Latin music" could no doubt use a bit of updating. These days, it's a painfully vague descriptor, akin to asking someone if they enjoy "European music" — a genre that contains everything from Adele to German death techno. (That's probably a thing, right?)

Luckily, few acts in the modern musical conversation are doing as much to shatter the antiquated parameters of "Latin music" as Bomba Estéreo. Over the past few years, Bomba's core duo of Simón Mejía and Liliana Saumet have demonstrated — with style, class, and oodles of swag — that the sounds of South America can't be lassoed by lazy expectations.

But Bomba Estéreo is doing more than just blowing a few minds here and there. The band's music has offered no shortage of inspiration to a huge slice of this country that needs it more than ever.

If you live in Miami, you've probably seen the group's acclaimed video for "Soy Yo."

"It was really a surprise for us," Mejía says of the video, which within weeks had garnered praise from the New York Times, NPR, Vogue, and many others. "The video is a very simple but strong video. It's beautiful."

The video was quickly hailed as an "ode to little brown girls everywhere," as Latin music website Remezcla put it. The song's message of self-acceptance and pride was brilliantly and hilariously portrayed by its 11-year-old star, Sarai Gonzalez, as she bounces down the street while giving symbolic middle finger after symbolic middle finger to anyone who dares cast a side-eye her way. "She did her thing in the video," Mejía says. "What she represents gave all the power and strength to the video."

Released in September 2016, the video couldn't have been timed better and surely provided some small measure of comfort to the same citizens of the United States who were being threatened by the now-president. Mejía says that the way the song resonated so deeply within America's Latino and Hispanic population was indeed a surprise. "Especially because the director is from Denmark," he laughs. "He has, like, nothing to do with Latin American culture, and he came up with this idea and it was wonderful."

"Soy Yo" would have been enough to earn Bomba Estéreo a well-deserved vacation, but the group took no breaks, having recently released a remixed version of its most recent album, Amanecer. Producers such as Ecuador's Nicola Cruz, Brazil's Omulu, and Miami's own Happy Colors added their touches to hits like "Raíz," "Amanecer," and "Soy Yo." The project, Mejía says, was inspired by his love of the Cure's 1990 remix album, Mixed Up, as well as Bomba's roots in the electronic music world.

Bomba Estéreo also recently wrapped up a U.S. tour that took the band to places such as Las Vegas, Austin City Limits, and Seattle. The band will return to one of its favorite locales, Miami, soon enough to headline the FM Festival, an event brought to you by the fine folks at Poplife and the Rhythm Foundation. The lineup will feature other heavy-hitters like Hot Chip and Ghostface Killah.

Oh, and Saumet also just had a baby, so, yes, you should feel bad about the fact that you haven't moved from the couch today.

The emotions that come to mind when Mejía reflects on the past year of his life? "All positives," he says with no shortage of gratitude. "We're very happy with all the results."

Even though Mejía still proudly calls Colombia home, he's remaining optimistic about the fate of his English-speaking neighbors up north because,"Well, I have to." The world is trending toward darkness enough as is, Mejía says, and doesn't necessarily need one more cynical mind pushing it along. So he's staying positive, because if he switched to the alternative, "life would be a hell, no?"

FM Festival
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, January 28 and 29, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $45 to $450 via ticketfly.com.

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